UCD Marian 81 – 90 UL Eagles
UCD Marian fell to another defeat at the hands of the UL Eagles in their final home game of the season. With the playoffs fast approaching, UCD went into this game hopeful of stifling the red hot Eagles, who have been the best team in the country since the arrival of American Robert Taylor. The guard has been inspirational since his arrival into the country, playing a big hand in UL’s National Cup glory and being presented with the MVP award. The Limerick team have now won an impressive five of their last six league games. UCD themselves were introducing a new American to their home fans today with Owen McNally replacing the frequently ill-effective Donnie Stith, who was sent home. UCD will be hopeful that McNally has a similar impact to Taylor. However, from looking at the result of this match and the loss to Killester in his debut, it could be wishful thinking.
UL started the game the better of the two with former Irish international Jason Killeen proving to be a very tough task. At close to seven foot tall, there is very little that can be done to stop him. Marian struggled to stop him as the big man had a thirty-one point game, proving the difference in a contest that could have gone either way at certain points. UCD were not sharp in the first half and were lucky to be in the game by the end. McNally was quiet early before he went to work. Niall and Conor Meany were UCD’s main scorers as they combined for a forty point game. By halftime UL had built a fourteen point lead and appeared confident of their ability to push on in the second half. UCD missed Donnie Stith’s height as they failed to successfully guard Killeen.
After a tormenting twenty-four minutes of play, UCD’s fans finally saw signs of a revival as their team began to improve. McNally went to work, making up for his disappointing start. Having trailed by as much as sixteen points in the third quarter, Marian managed to trim the deficit to three points with four minutes left in the quarter with a very impressive comeback. A subdued crowd were now right behind their team as the game looked as though the momentum had swung. However, the Eagles were not prepared to let all their work from the first two quarters go to waste. They stepped up their defensive efforts and managed to push on again, with big scores coming from Killeen, Taylor and Eoin Quigley. UL coach Mark Keenan was relieved to see his team increase the lead to seven by the end of the third period, and they were lucky not to have thrown this game away to a hungry UCD team.
Despite UCD’s efforts, they could not recreate their third quarter performance as they looked for something to close the gap. UL looked like a team preparing to complete a league and cup double and were too good for Marian, as they have been for many teams of late. The Eagles pulled ahead by double digits and while UCD always possessed the threat of a comeback, they never executed it, and UL ran out victors 90-81.
UCD can take some positives from this game, however, ahead of the playoffs. Owen McNally announced his arrival with a big second half that left him with twenty-one points, a sizable contribution for only his second game in the country. He has shown the commitment that Stith never did, which is exactly what UCD were looking for when they brought him over. UL’s Jason Killeen proved his international pedigree with an emphatic performance, scoring thirty-one points and adding many rebounds to that. Eoin Quigley and Robert Taylor also had twenty-point games for the cup champions. UCD look ahead to their next game away to UCC Demons on March 4th. A win against the Cork side would be ideal as their focus switches to the playoffs.